Top Irish travel blogger Stephanie Barry-Woods left her day to day life behind to begin one of nomadic wanderlust back in 2015.
Since then, the Corkonian’s talent for framing the perfect snapshot and expertise when it comes to backpacking tips and tricks have led her to craft her brand as Steph My Life – Ireland’s leading travel content creator.
Steph and her partner Tim live in Bali, Indonesia full time, and are currently exploring Italy. She has curated a selection of tours in Bali, based off her own experiences on the island, which can be found on her website.
How did your interest in travel start?
It all started when I met Tim. He told me about a six month trip he had taken through Asia, Australia and New Zealand and it all sounded so incredible.
A year later we went to Thailand. Tim planned it all and showed me how to backpack, and then I just got obsessed with travel. Now I’m the one planning all of our trips!
Can you describe the experience of making the decision to leave your life in London to begin travelling full time?
It was something that we always spoke about, literally from one of our first dates. It was a topic of conversation every time we went away on a holiday together, when we would go on date nights, or have a stressful day at work.
We talked about it for years in a ‘this could never happen’ way, and then one day we took a look at what we could save and realised it could happen. Then we set a date a couple of years in the future and started getting ready to leave! That moment of realising that it was something within our reach was huge for me – I think that’s why I share so much online and started my site. I want to give other people that ‘aha’ moment where they can see that they can do that thing that they’ve been dreaming about.
What were your hopes and your fears when you began your travels?
Our hope was to find a way to work online eventually and keep our travel going as long as possible, and I think our fear was that this wouldn’t work out and we would have to return to our old lives in London.
We had the general anxieties about money, safety, making friends, enjoying life on the road – but those were overshadowed by the excitement of what we were doing.
How did you begin creating content along the way?
I was already on Instagram when we left, but I didn’t have much of a following. I posted photos of the trip with tips for places we went and people started finding the tips helpful so my follow count started to grow.
As we kept travelling I got more into photography, editing, and trying to create beautiful photos. As my following grew I realised that my older tips were buried down my feed, so I launched my website to let people find them easily.
What has been your favourite place you have visited?
This is like trying to choose your favourite child!
I love every country we’ve been to, just in different ways. India made me a more patient traveller, Japan made me more adventurous with food, Thailand calms me down, and is where we go when things get stressful, Sri Lanka overwhelmed me with the kindness of the people there, and every other country has given me something that made me a better person.
Why did you choose to settle in Bali?
Bali is so easy for digital nomads to live in. It’s cheap, the internet is great, the food is excellent, and you can make friends easily – plus it’s absolutely beautiful! It was an obvious choice for us from the day we arrived.
What have been the high and low points of your journey so far?
The high point was setting up my business and being able to work online doing something I love. I’ve always wanted to help other people see the world, and now as a travel planner I can do just that. It’s been a lot of hard work, but reaching a point where I could stop freelancing in IT and work full time on the site was huge for me.
The low point would have been a scooter accident that we were in earlier this year. We were coming home from a friend’s place and were knocked off our bike by another rider. Tim needed surgery and I had a pretty bad concussion, and we had a lot of trouble with our insurance company. It knocked us off course for a while, but we’re starting to feel back to normal now and ready to keep travelling.
What lessons has your time travelling taught you?
It’s shown me that there is more than one way to live your life. Having a traditional 9 – 5 job, buying a house, getting married, and having children are all choices that everyone can make for themselves. They’re all great things to do if you want to do them, but life is not a set path that everyone has to follow.
I often get pressure to ‘settle’, and asked when we’re going to stop travelling and have kids etc, which is something that used to stress me out. But I have met so many people while travelling that have carved out their own path, and are doing what makes them happy. They all inspire me to keep living life like we want to do. This is an outlook I wouldn’t have if I had never left!
Finally, what is your advice to anyone who wants to travel the world but is scared to start?
Start with smaller trips close to home, especially if you want to backpack solo. Take a short flight to a city in Europe and get used to travelling in your own company, making friends, figuring out how to get around, and what to pack. You don’t have to start with a one-way flight to Bangkok, you can start with a weekend in Amsterdam!
Seek out other travellers online and chat to them, ask them for advice about things you’re worried about. Join Facebook groups for backpackers and digital nomads and become part of the community before you even leave. It’s so important to have people you can talk to that understand your worries and fears, and give you advice on how to tackle them.
And no matter what happens, your family and friends are only one phone call or flight away!